RIVER NORTH — The Chicago Park District voted to name a park field house after Secretary of State Jesse White — an "extraordinary" move which required the board to waive the requirement that a park's namesake be deceased.
The board voted unanimously at its Wednesday meeting to initiate the 45-day notice period to name the field house in the park at 410-412 W. Chicago Ave. for White, who founded the well-known Jesse White Tumblers before becoming a leader in the state's Democratic party.
"I feel honored," White said Thursday. "I was raised in the area, educated in the area and still live in the community."
"The tumblers have been around for 55 years, and now this facility will be our home," White said. "Our young people will have a place to go, a safety net to keep them out of harms way."
White said the facility is meant to serve the entire community. "No matter where you are in life, you can come and enjoy what the facility has to offer."
The newly constructed $12 million field house was developed "in collaboration with the Jesse White Foundation, in honor of Jesse White," Park District documents state.
"Jesse White is extraordinary because he has made it his life’s work caring about young people in a way that profoundly emphasizes the ethos of the Park District’s 'Children First' outlook," the documents state.
A sign on the building already identifies it as "Jesse White Community Center and Field House."
In an emailed statement, Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said: "The sign was made during the construction process in anticipation of community and board support, based on the history of the project."
The district said that the Jesse White Foundation, which gave $2 million toward the field house, was established to help kids in the nearby Cabrini-Green community and that "contributions of time, talent and finances came together to create this building so that subsequent generations may benefit from the exemplary spirit of commitment to community Jesse White has provided over the last half-century."
Even though he has not passed away, "reflecting upon how rare it is that in one lifetime, Jesse White could be such champion of youth and children and also be an accomplished athlete, scholar, visionary, teacher, mentor, coach, war hero, public servant, community leader and public official at the highest levels of government, the waiver is no more extraordinary than the man, himself."
At the meeting, Park District Supt. Michael Kelly and Ald. Will Burns (4th) spoke in favor of the measure.
"It's about Jesse White, the man," Kelly said. "The guy's career is legendary."
Kelly said the board hadn't approved naming something after a living person in his 12-year tenure, but "in this case I decided there was no sense in waiting. He is a remarkable individual and it's going to happen eventually."
Commissioner Tim King suggested that the park itself, in addition to the field house, should be named after White.
The park is currently called Park 560.
Contributing: Mauricio Pena
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